Rick Haskins: Parsing Viewers' Taste for the New Online

Moving drama-heavy CW’s digital offerings toward animation, game shows, comedy and more

B&C's 2012 Digital All-Stars

Rick Haskins was ready to hang
up his hat as The CW’s head of
marketing before the network persuaded
him to stay—with digital programs
added to his purview—last December.


“Digital programming is going to explode,
and I think it’s really fun to get on the ground
level at these types of
things and be a pioneer
in this space,” he says.

At The CW’s upfront
presentation in May,
the network unveiled
Haskins’ first brainchild
following his promotion:
CWD, a new studio that
will create original shortform
content exclusively
for its digital platforms.

The content will focus
on animation, game
shows and comedy—
genres not currently
represented on The CW’s drama-heavy
schedule, but ones that could give the small
network programs with repeatability and
syndication potential crucial for its longterm

“We want to understand what the appetite
is for this type of product from this audience,”
Haskins says.

CWD’s first two series
will be the animated
Gallery Girl and Stupid
—starring Hart of
’s Wilson Bethel in
a parody of a white rapper
in the 1990s, which
will roll within Dixie
episodes on CWTV.com
and its app starting in

The studio is meant
to serve as both an incubator
for future programming
and a platform
for alternative content, with the caveat
that what works digitally doesn’t necessarily
work on broadcast (with its more rigid time
constraints), as well as the smaller budgets
afforded for digital development.

“To me, that’s going to be our biggest challenge:
How can we experiment in digital and
know whether or not it’s going to work on
broadcast?” Haskins asks.

For Haskins, the challenge includes figuring
out how to make social media tools
into programming components. He will try
it with the CWD series Fandemonium, where
the network’s 50 million Facebook fans will
compete for the title of #1 CW fan using
Pinterest, GetGlue and Klout. It’s also about
experimenting with business models, and
CWD already has multiple brands signed on
for partnerships with its digital series.

“This is still a giant lab to understand how
I can marry digital with social with programming,”
Haskins says. “Because that’s what’s
happening now with the audience.”